Lost positives and false negatives – disgruntled and inflammable

Recently, we’ve been focusing on commonly confused words, such as  farther vs. further or imply vs. infer. Among often confused words are those that can said to be those with a “lost positive” or a “false negative,” such as disgruntled and inflammable. Disgruntled, like unkempt, discombobulate, and nondescript, is a part of a category of …

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How far the difference between farther vs. further?

In the last few posts, we’ve been considering pairs of commonly confused words, such as alright vs. all right and anxious vs. eager. These pairs have been the cause of sometimes heated debate by language and usage experts. Other pairs, like farther and further, have their supporters, but the discussion is less acrimonious. As with …

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No need to be anxious about “anxious vs. eager”

Browsing through the book, Woe is I (1996) which we’ve referenced in this blog several times, I came across O’Conner’s use of the words eager and anxious. These words often appear on lists of words usually confused, though O’Conner was discussing them in relation to the misuse of infinitives. She includes anxious in a list …

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How to deal with dialogue

Writers, especially beginning ones, often struggle with dialogue. There are many aspects to handling dialogue in your writing, including distinguishing between direct quotation and indirect quotation. Since direct quotations repeat a person’s remarks in their own words without deviation, they require quotation marks; for example: Mary said, “I am ready.” Indirect quotations, on the other …

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Which is correct – different from or different than?

The choice between using different from versus different than is another one of those English language myths. Prescriptivists argue that different from is the only correct form that educated people would choose. Indeed, some discussion boards on this usage point reveal that some purists feel so strongly they cite the decline or dumbing down of …

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What is voice in writing?

A recent Writing Workshop wanted to talk about voice in literature. They noticed that when participants shared their writing, they could “hear” the author’s voice more clearly than when they read the work on their own. In this Workshopping process, we share and discuss the work in a structured and consciously developed method, which involves …

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